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AfriGeneas Helpdesk
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What is Genealogy?

Genealogy is the reconstruction of a lineage using records that can be found in your own family as well as in the many archives and facilities all over the country that house historical records. This is done one generation at a time, starting with your own generation and working back as far as you can until all possible records have been searched for. Genealogy requires that you use family and historical records to prove or disprove that an individual or group of individuals are connected through kinship or by “blood.” This is the next best thing to DNA evidence.

Sometimes you won’t be able to prove or disprove an event like your great-grandparents’ marriage using the records alone. Then you have to rely on surmise. If John and Jane Smith were listed in many records as husband and wife, but you can’t find a marriage record stating that they were married on a specific date in a specific place, then you can still conclude that John and Jane Smith were probably married, but for a number of reasons, an actual marriage record can not be located.

Then you can give the reasons for not finding the marriage record:

  1. They may have been married in a different state, but you can’t identify which state.
  2. The county was not recording marriages at that time.
  3. They were married during slavery, and no one recorded the marriage (though some slaveowners did record marriages).
  4. The records were burned in a courthouse fire (of which there were many) and you, therefore, don’t know whether the record ever existed.
  5. Very few Black marriages were recorded in the county until the 1930s and after.

These are not all the reasons, but some of the most likely ones that you could give for not finding a record of marriage for John and Jane Smith.

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